Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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Fun French Facts, Vol. II

So, the Seven Years’ War was a conflict too complicated for me to understand, but something I do understand came from it: mayonnaise!

The basics of the conflict, which took place between 1756 and 1763, pitted Britain against Spain & France. The latter two were unified by the Bourbon family, members of whom currently sit on the thrones of Spain and Luxembourg.

The story behind mayonnaise may be apocryphal, but as I learned in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, then the Duke of Richelieu, led the French troops against the British in 1756 in Minorca, one of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Catalunya. (The others are Menorca and Ibiza.) The Brits eventually surrendered and Richelieu, it is said, was hungry and ordered food. The chef didn’t have any cream on hand (the island had been besieged by one force or another for a long time), so he substituted olive oil when making a sauce and Richelieu loved it. He dubbed the creation mahonnais [of Mahon, the capital city of Minorca].

Try it yourself

Real mayo is super easy to make at home and has a flavor that’s very unlike the jarred variety. Alton Brown‘s is pretty basic and can be mixed up in lots of ways by adding just about anything you want. I stopped eating mayo after I made it once because, while it tasted delicious, I was severely grossed out by what it actually was (olive oil + raw egg).

Americans swear by the taste of Hellmann’s, even fancy chefs. I also insisted on it for every turkey sandwich I ate for probably 20 years. It’s one of those things where I’m not sure if we love it because we all grew up with it or because it’s actually, empirically better than others.

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